Guest Post by FATIMA TASSADIQ
The brutal murders of Shehzad and Shama, a Christian couple in the village of Kot Radha Kishan in Kasur district on 4th November, spawned predictable outrage in the press and social media. The rush of horror, the diagnoses and prescribed course of action against such violence involved the familiar paternalistic discourse of the ‘illiterate masses’ whose ‘ignorance’ evidently leaves them particularly vulnerable to the manipulation of the much maligned mullahs. Such a narrative serves the dual function of reducing religious violence to the faceless masses while at the same time reaffirming the educated urban upper class as the rightful custodian of Islam and Pakistan. This construction conveniently ignores the role played by the state and the elite in producing religious violence and feeds the class-based blind spots that exist in our understanding of what constitutes religious extremism.
Continue reading The Class Politics of Blasphemy in Pakistan: Fatima Tassadiq
Received via Shankar Gopalakrishnan
As the 2014 elections begin, the time has come again to state the obvious. In the context of massive propaganda campaigns, the subtle use of stereotypes, and the fact that both the Western and the Indian media share certain basic biases, many people end up believing in a range of myths about the adherents of the world’s second largest religion. This is a quick attempt at exposing those myths.
Myth: ‘Muslim’ countries are never secular. Muslims do not tolerate minorities in ‘their’ countries but demand minority rights in other countries.
The world’s largest Muslim majority country is Indonesia (total population approximately 25 crores, larger than Pakistan). Indonesia is a secular democracy. Indeed, its population is almost a mirror image of India’s – 88% Muslim, 9% Christian, 3% Hindu, 2% Buddhist, etc. (as compared to India, which has a population that is 80% Hindu, 13.4% Muslim, 2.3% Christian, etc.) Indonesia’s national slogan is “Unity in Diversity.” Yes, Indonesia has occasional riots and bomb blasts, but so does India.
In reality the majority of Muslim majority countries in the world are secular. Several large examples include Turkey, Mali, Syria, Niger, and Kazakhstan. Despite having Islam as ‘state religion’, Bangladesh’s government is also secular in law. The same is true of many other countries. Only six countries in the world claim to use Islam as the basis of their law making – and their total population is roughly the same as the population of Indonesia, Turkey and Kazakhstan combined. In other words, the vast majority of Muslim majority countries are secular, and the vast majority of Muslims live under secular governments.
Myth: Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims.
Continue reading Some Myths About Muslims
A news item from some weeks ago, which has gone curiously unremarked and un-commented upon has made me think about the limits that the freedom of expression debate and the discourse on secularism in India unwittingly or knowingly does not seem to be able to cross, despite repeated provocation.
We all know that when the Hindu right comes to town – declaring that this or that text should not be taught in the university, or this or that painting should not be seen, or this or that film should not be shown – the secular left-liberal intelligentsia in India automatically gets outraged, signs petitions, holds press conferences and generally vents it righteous anger. I know this because I do all these things, along with all my friends. I sign the online petitions, attend the demonstrations, express my anger and do some (or all) of that which needs to be done, that should be done. We should never give an inch to the hoodlums of Hindutva.
However, when it comes to responding to the equally aggressive, reactionary and utterly arbitrary actions of sections of the Muslim clergy and other self appointed leaders on the ‘Muslim Right’ a strange inertia seems to take hold of the best and boldest foot-soldiers of secularism in India.
Continue reading A Curious Silence and an Un-Crossed Line: In the Wake of A Disbanded Exhibition